5 THE BEST NEW ARTISTS NOW!
1. The Hip-Hop Hitmakers
MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
The ceiling can't hold the Seattle duo of rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis, who have bum-rushed the pop charts with two consecutive No. 1 singles: "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us." But there's much more to them than ubiquitous party songs, as evidenced by the depth and range of their self-released debut, The Heist.
The aforementioned cuts, "Same Love"
2. The Teen Troubadour
It's hard to believe that this English lad is the same age as Justin Bieber (19). He inhabits his self-titled debut with an old soul possessed by Buddy Holly, the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
"Lightning Bolt," "Two Fingers," "Note to Self"
3. The Neo-Soul Diva
Part Nina Simone, part Jill Scott, part Björk, this classically trained Brit takes lush, layered arrangements and orchestrations to celestial heights on Sing to the Moon.
"Green Garden," "She," "Father, Father"
4. The Indie Folkies
THE LONE BELLOW
This alt-folk trio may have Brooklyn hipster cred, but their Americana-rooted sound takes you to the heartland - even veering into backwoods gospel - on their eponymous debut.
"Tree to Grow," "Bleeding Out," "Teach Me to Know"
5. The Country Rebel
On Same Trailer Different Park, she bucks Nashville conventions. Bonus points for cowriting "Mama's Broken Heart" by Miranda Lambert.
"Merry Go 'Round," "Follow Your Arrow," "Blowin' Smoke"
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FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
So how'd you come up with your band name?
BRIAN: We wanted to represent where we were both from. [Kelley is from Ormond Beach, Fla.; Hubbard is from Monroe, Ga.]
TYLER: It's kind of where we meet - in the middle, creatively and as friends.
What was it like hearing your music on the radio for the first time?
BRIAN: I was at my house and got a call from a friend who said "Cruise" was on in Nashville. I ran out and turned on my car, rolled down the windows and [blasted] the second half of the song. I pretty much ticked off my neighbors.
Any splurges since hitting it big?
BRIAN: I just bought a 1985 Chevy K5 Blazer - you can take the top off. It's one of my dream cars. And Tyler bought a motorcycle. Nothing too crazy.
Tell us one secret about each other.
BRIAN: Tyler played the saxophone at one point in his life. He was a little Kenny G!
TYLER: We call Brian "the Hurricane" because he will very frequently spill a drink or two. That's how he picks up girls. [Laughs] I'm the clean-up guy.
When was the last time you got your shine on?
BRIAN: Sunday night. We passed around a jug of good old-fashioned apple pie moonshine after a show and just had a good time.
"We Can't Stop" With the party-drug references in this Rihanna
-esque midtempo, it's clear that Miley has broken free of the Disney label she started recording for in her Hannah Montana days.
J. COLE FEATURING TLC
"Crooked Smile" An early contender for song of the summer, this teams Jay-Z's rap protégé with T-Boz and Chilli for a grin-inducing gem about embracing physical flaws.
"Bourbon in Kentucky" "There ain't enough bourbon in Kentucky for me to forget you," sings the country star on this good ol' whiskey weepie.
NINE INCH NAILS
"Came Back Haunted" Trent Reznor brings his spooky presence to the dance floor on this electro-fying preview of NIN's first album since '08.
Harry Connick, Jr.
Every Man Should Know
Connick showcases his versatility on these originals, singing, playing and arranging, writing the music and lyrics, while covering genres ranging from jazz and gospel to bossa nova and country. Impressive.
Where It All Began
Another old-school crooner, the Glee star revisits some familiar territory with these standards and show tunes. Produced by Phil Ramone before he passed away in March, it's a solid but unspectacular send-off.
On her latest the R&B songbird demonstrates why she beats much of the competition with her soulful, jazz-kissed vocals. She's at her best on sophisto slow jams such as "A Couple of Forevers" and "Love Won't Leave Me Out."